Empire co-creator Lee Daniels said he’s “beyond embarrassed” that he came out so forcefully in defense of Jussie Smollett after initial reports broke that the Empire actor had been the victim of a hate crime, which later turned out to be staged by the actor himself.
Said Daniels to Vulture: “I’m beyond embarrassed. I think that when it happened, I had a flash of me running from bullies. I had a flash of my whole life, of my childhood, my youth, getting beaten.”
Daniels added that Smollett’s behavior was something out of the blue and would be a “huge betrayal” if “it turned out that he did it, was guilty, and all of it’s accurate.”
Daniels said that he still holds out hope that it’s not true that it was staged: “Of course, there’s some doubt. I’m telling you that because I love him so much. That’s the torture that I’m in right now, because it’s literally if it were to happen to your son and your child, how would you feel? You would feel, Please, God, please let there be that glimmer of hope that there is some truth in this story. That’s why it’s been so painful. It was a flood of pain.”
Continued Daniels, “We weren’t there. I can’t judge him. That’s only for the f**king lady or man with that black robe and God. I had to detach myself and stop calling him, because it was taking away the time I have for my kids, the time I have for my partner. It was affecting my spirit and other shows, everything.”